Although a hastily recruited new lineup has only been in place for a few weeks, British post-punk pioneers the Fall are already halfway finished with a new album.

Although a hastily recruited new lineup has only been in place for a few weeks, British post-punk pioneers the Fall are already halfway finished with a new album.

"It's quite strange, really," says frontman Mark E. Smith, who recruited a trio of American musicians to fill out the group's lineup after several Fall members quit during a recent U.S. tour. "I've never really played with that many Americans, but I was very impressed. We really got down to it."

Guitarist Tim Presley and bassist Rob Barbato (of California psychedelic rock act Darker My Love) plus drummer Orpheo McCord were drafted to join Smith and his wife, keyboardist Eleni Poulou. The move followed a bizarre show in Phoenix on May 7, where Justin Williams, lead singer of opening band the Talk, threw a banana peel at Smith onstage, and three members of the Fall quit immediately afterward.

"We weren't getting along for about a month," says Smith of ex-bandmates Ben Pritchard, Steve Trafford and Spencer Birtwistle. "But I didn't find out they were leaving until the next morning." Of the now-infamous banana incident, Smith contends Williams "hit me very hard on the left ear. I'm f*cking singing, for God's sake. If he hit me another inch or two lower he could have killed me."

Williams, who later posted an obscene response to Smith on the Talk's MySpace.com page, was reportedly upset by Smith's behavior on the tour, and had learned that most of the Fall was planning to quit, throwing future tour dates in jeopardy.

After being hit, "I chased [Williams] into the car park," says Smith, adding with a chuckle, "He runs very fast. It's a good thing I didn't catch him. I didn't want to spend another night in jail." In 1998, Smith was arrested in New York and charged with assaulting his then-girlfriend and Fall keyboardist Julia Nagle, the day after an onstage fight with his bandmates also led to departures from the group.

The subject of the Fall's fluctuating lineup has always made good copy. Since forming in Manchester in 1976, Smith has employed more than 40 different bandmates, several of whom have left the Fall on less-than-amicable terms.

But Smith says the new incarnation is one of the most promising yet. The new recruits recently entered a Los Angeles recording studio where Smith had already booked time, and knocked out several tracks. One of the new songs, a powerfully droning number called "Reformation," is described by Smith as a "parody of all the Manchester groups of the '80s and '90s, and how they're getting back together again."

"I told the [new members] that was what it was about, and they just said, 'Awesome, we'll do it,'" says Smith. "To get half an LP out of those sessions was like a million-to-one shot."

A spokesperson for the Fall's American label, Narnack, says the as-yet-untitled set could be out late this year or in early 2007.

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